Super 8

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"If you speak of this, you and your parents will be killed "

Aug 08, 2011

Finally arriving in the UK us English are given the chance to experience a film that critics have branded the best flick of the summer. Directed by J.J Abram's Super 8 comes as a throwback to the blockbuster film from decades gone past. More specifically those released by Spielberg (who also produced this). Having grown up relishing every movie of his I was looking forward to this one hoping that cinema could once again capture the magic that films just seem to be lacking nowadays.

I wasn't a fan of the marketing for this film. Just like Cloverfield and Star Trek before it Abram's created short teaser trailers that really showed us nothing of the actual film. I'm fine with the whole restricting content so that a movie isn't ruined (Nolan did great by Inception with a similar tactic) but this style draws our attention to other aspects that in the long run aren't very relevant to the full feature. Coverfield and Super 8's trailers focused on the mystery of the creatures that were involved in the plot (even without seeing them) where as the actual films are about the characters first and foremost. People are flocking to see these types of films wanting creature features and walk out disappointed. Fortunately I wasn't.

After Cloverfield I decided to ignore the trailers. What really got me interested were the interviews and other discussion pieces that popped up online from Abrams and Spielberg. The fact that this was a throwback to the films I grew up with really got me excited as I feel the modern blockbuster have really been lacking as of late. I'm not bashing them. I go to watch film after film and find lots to enjoy but they really lack the awe and magic films once had. As the years pass I forget many a modern blockbuster but films such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws remain classics that are a joy to revisit time and time again.

Set in 1979 a band of Kids are attempting to create their own movie with a Super 8 camera. One night when out filming (without permission I might add) they catch a train wreck on film and stumble across something that the military would prefer was kept secret.

Super 8 is amazingly crafted and really feels like a product of a bygone era. From the opening Amblin Logo I was transported back to my youth. It was if this film had been lost for multiple decades and only now has been unearthed for the public. If you weren't aware that J J Abram's directed the film you'd be forgiven for thinking this was Spielberg's work.

On the whole this is a no name cast which is why I suppose they decided to go with the mystery trailers. Without star selling power another approach would have been needed. Although there are adults in the film (and some with significant roles) the kids really are the stars of the show. Like many films of the 80's the focus on their adventures reminded me of E.T., Gonnies and the Monster Squad (films that I still watch now). I still cannot make up my mind as to whether the kids are fantastic actors or if they were just caught on film while going about their daily activities.

One of my favourite scenes was not an action scene or special effects extravaganza but a simple scene of the children being children. Just after the train crash the kids are in a dinner having lunch. Sitting around various conversations take place at the same time with a lot of light banter between them. It reminded me of when I was little and I used to hang out with my friends. It seems quite odd writing this as I am well aware we are living in the age of the paedophile but I absolutely enjoyed watching the blossoming relationship between Joe (Joel Courtney) and Alice (Elle Fanning) which was quite sweet and a joy to watch. No I'm not being creepy.

Super 8 does have a few differences from the films it's an homage to. The story is quite darker straying into territory and topics that films a generation ago wouldn't go near. Not that Spielberg's films of yesteryear strayed away from darker topics it's just a reflection of the times we live in that things are far more sombre than they used to be. The tone is set from the outset beginning with a funeral after the death of our main leads mother.

This plot thread of the dead mother ties into many moments throughout the film. It leaves such a melancholy feeling but is captured so beautifully on screen. It also ties into the adults within the film and their behaviour which at first seems odd. Later in the film everything becomes clear as we experience events through the eyes of the children. The emotional payoffs are fantastic.

I don't want to give away too much about the story as its best experienced for your self but I will say the characters are far more entertaining than the creature that the film has been sold upon. Eventually we do get into what was in the train but for my enjoyment of this film it really didn't factor too much.

The effects are used sparingly focusing on character developments and drama but when they do kick in they are quite spectacular and mean more as we've had time to develop feelings for the cast. Funnily this was also mentioned by a character in the film as he explains why he needs character development in the film he's shooting, it seems like Abram's and Spielberg have a message for their contemporises out there.

Even with the wave of nostalgia I felt while watching the film it's not hard to recommend it to people this is a great film. This film really does stand apart from the other films released this summer and while some may not appreciate the slower paced storytelling over time this will take its place as a classic. If you go into this wanting to see the alien/creature your surely going to be left underwhelmed (it really doesn't become prominent until an hour and twenty minutes in). For those that are aware of what Super 8 is attempting to recreate then they are going to be in for a great experience.

I felt the magic of cinema again, for me the best movie of the last few summers.

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